Friday, January 5, 2007

New year. New blog

Hello you... I hope 2007 is treating you well and that all is well in your world. I'm enjoying it so far. I've just realised a very strange thing: if you ask me what I do for a living - and people do - my normal answer is that I am a writer and performer. Mentally I have always assumed that my living is made by performing live and I've regarded all the other stuff - TV, radio, publishing and whatever else there might be - as a bonus.

I think this is a healthy attitude because the live stuff is the thing that you have the most control over... in an if-you-build-it-they-will-come, leap-of-faith way, at least. You don't need anyone else to back you and you don't need anyone else to fund you... so it's always seemed the most real... for want of a less pretentious word.

It's also an attitude that helps to put the work in perspective properly. I feel very fortunate to be offered some of the things that come my way, but because I don't regard them as any kind of entitlement I don't need them to happen regularly and I don't leave myself in a situation where I rely on them financially which I think means that I'm better able to judge which ones I should or shouldn't do. (Not that my judgement is perfect by any means.)

Anyway... that sort of describes what I thought I did for a living, but for the first time, as I look back at the year just gone, I'm forced to acknowledge that things have changed. For the first time in about 16 years, twelve months have passed in which I didn't perform one live show. Not a single one.

There were plenty of times when I was on stage and there was an audience and it was, I think, a good entertaining night out for all concerned - like the recordings for Genius for example - but while that presses a lot of the same buttons as live work, it really isn't the same thing because I was being paid by the broadcaster and not the audience. It's a different exchange. So, if I judge myself by my own long-standing self-regarding rules, my real income for the last year was precisely zero. I made no money in what I've always regarded as the bedrock of my professional life. How odd.

It was a busy year though... there was Genius, Annually Retentive, a few appearances on The Daily Show and more guest appearances on other shows than I think I've ever squeezed into a year before. I wonder if I've subconsciously altered my judgement and been readier to accept things because of the lack of live shows? Or maybe I've just been more available because I haven't been touring? I really don't know... but I will no doubt work it out. Or maybe I'll just contemplate my navel and fail to come to any conclusion and just get on with things instead.

I don't imagine that the pattern is going to change any time soon because I think I've toured all four of my live shows as extensively as I can already and wouldn't want people to think the same shows were constantly rotating. No, I think everyone who wanted to see them has had the opportunity to see them and for me to go back out on the road means I need to have a new story to tell.

But that's the thing... because I don't write my shows at a desk, I tell stories. If things happen to me and if I think there's a story worth telling then a little while later, a show emerges. I spent the last few weeks of last year travelling but that was quite deliberately undertaken with a book - and latterly a film - in mind and it's those two tellings of that story that I will be immersing myself in next. Which means that there's no new show coming any time soon. In fact I suspect the showless run might well stretch to 24 months and beyond. I have to face it, an audience no longer pays my wages... I'm a media whore. Oh dear.

While I sit and stare at a blank screen and try to remind myself quite how I go about writing a book, I'm pleased to say that some small distraction is hoving into view in the shape of a second series of Annually Retentive. I will once again be taking on a role that I think would stretch many actors but which I find relatively easy. Yes, I'll be playing 'me' again. I'm glad I don't have to play Jane Moore as Jane Moore is so much better at it than I would be.

If you fancy being in the studio audience for the recordings which take place in London on January 11 and 12 then you want to scoot over to to get your free tickets.

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